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What do you do when you're feeling guilty about something?

To say I’m an expert in guilt would be an understatement. I used to feel pretty much guilty for existing. I held a few harmful beliefs that seeped their way into my psyche at a young age and left me feeling guilty, disempowered, and honestly, like trash. When guilt is present, we attract situations that feel like punishment because we believe that we deserve punishment. Unfortunately, guilt is commonly used as a means of control. We use it to manipulate ourselves and others. Let’s examine a few common beliefs that spurn guilt and a few ways to reframe those beliefs.

  1. I am responsible for other people’s actions.

I felt immense guilt as a girl because I was told that my body is innately “sinful” and that when other people experienced lust “because of my body,” it was my fault.

The truth is….

You are only responsible for your actions.

You are not responsible for other’s thoughts, judgments, opinions, expectations, downfalls….just as you are not responsible for others successes, achievements, etc. No credit & no blame. You are only responsible for yourself.

If the guilt is stemming from another person’s actions or reactions, affirm this:

My highest and only responsibility is myself. I choose to see myself with love, knowing that from love comes more love. I can love and accept myself unconditionally.

2. Pleasure is wrong, and therefore, I should feel guilty when I experience pleasure.

Ask yourself: what is my primary motivation for the things I do? Ultimately, we do almost everything in our life because we think it will make us feel good. Sometimes, that comes from a temporary place (“instant gratification”), or it comes from a grander view of things (“working hard at this job will make me feel good because I’ll be able to afford a house”). Just remember, we cannot uplift anyone from a place of despair. The interesting twist is that when we do not care for ourselves, other people must bear the burden. In this way, being “selfish,” or prioritizing our pleasure is truly one of the most generous, unselfish things we can do. So it becomes, what we do for ourselves, we do for others. Similarly, we’ve likely felt the good feeling of giving someone a gift, or of offering our talents in service, or being generous---and as the giver, IT FEELS SO GOOD! Remember that is pleasure, too. If you feel you’re feeling guilty for experiencing pleasure, affirm this:

I came forth in this experience to live joyfully. When I am joyful, others celebrate. When others are joyful, I celebrate. My feeling good is a great sign, and there is nothing to be guilty for. I accept myself exactly as I am. In fact, I can release guilt and celebrate feeling good!

3. I have to do this, and I didn’t, so I feel guilty. I should do this, and I’m not going to, so I feel guilty.

This is a tricky one! We often buy into the belief that guilt motivates us (which it can) AND it’s not the only way. When we take actions from a place of guilt/fear/shame, even if it’s “the right thing,” we are embarking on a path of more guilt, more pain, more fear. One example is eating a pint of ice cream while feeling so guilty! And then we find pleasure in the punishment of “killing ourselves” on the treadmill the next day. Guilt breeds more guilt. You can take exactly the same actions from a place of love. You can eat every spoonful with conscious awareness and love! You can also take a jog from love because our bodies love & crave movement!

Another example is going to a party that you know you don’t want to go to because you feel guilty, or someone placed guilt on you. Consider this: does this person deserve your pity? In the reverse, how might you feel if you really knew that someone was just acquiescing to your guilt-trip? It also affirms to others that you can be manipulated by guilt. This will only prolong the cycle of guilt and punishment.

A great inquiry is this: “Am I doing this from love? Or from fear/guilt/shame? Can I take the same action, but from a space of self-love? Do I require the guilt to do the thing?”

Affirm this:

When I take actions from a place of love, love springs forth. When I enjoy my life, love springs forth. When I choose love, love chooses me.

Consider, what subconscious beliefs do you hold about guilt, punishment, being wrong, and not enough? Where do they stem from? When did you buy into them?

Once you have identified your limiting beliefs, try asking yourself this question:

“Is this ultimate truth?”

“Can I absolutely know that this is truth?”

“Am I willing to consider there is another way to see this?”

“Am I willing to consider that I don’t know?”

Try on a new belief! Reframe what you’ve thought before, or search for a better feeling belief. Search for something that feels MORE true, or perhaps more in alignment with you.

Finally, you might want to make a ritual of this. Here’s what I do to release guilt.

To release guilt, I cleanse my body with rosewater or a sustainable smudge (such as juniper or mugwort). Then, I repeat the following as many times as I feel:

I now release any feelings of guilt in my body, energy body, conscious, and subconscious.

I release the burden of guilt.

I release guilt and recognize holding onto guilt any longer does no good.

I release any residue of guilt with each exhale, and it frees me to love myself and others unconditionally.

I no longer manipulate myself with guilt.

I no longer require guilt to take actions that are loving.

I no longer require guilt to color my joyful experiences of pleasure.

Instead of guilt, I choose unconditional love.

I open up to the love that is always with me, that never leaves me, that springs forth my beautiful heart. I can step into love and move from love.

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